Review: ‘Kosher Lutherans’ brings a lot of laughs

Published 6:46 pm Saturday, August 5, 2023

“Kosher Lutherans” is the final play during this year’s season at the Pioneer Playhouse. The play explores themes of family and the curve balls of life.   

The play revolves around two couples in Southern California, aspiring writer Franklyn (played by Jonny Maldanado) who works as an accountant for his wife Hannah’s (Erika Lee Sengstack) father, along with his best friend from college, Ben (Darius Fatemi) and his wife Martha (Suraya Shalash).

The first act of the play revolves around Franklyn and Hannah having Ben and Martha over for dinner to ask Martha to act as an egg donor. However, things aren’t going so well in Ben and Martha’s marriage. From there, the evening keeps going downhill as truths come to light. Skip to the second act, and Franklyn and Hannah are attempting to convince Alison (Peyton White), a pregnant 18 year old runaway from Iowa, to let them adopt her baby. The only problem is Alison doesn’t know Franklyn and Hannah are Jewish. With the help of Ben and Martha, they pose as Lutherans to get Alison to sign the contract.

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Despite the a story that could be a tragedy, the quips from playwright William Missouri Downs and comedic chops of the cast had the audience rolling with laughter. Downs’ former work as a TV writer shows through in the script and the actors carry the same energy with performances and dialogue reminiscence of Seinfeld-era sitcoms.     

The show on July 29 was a special one. Playwright Downs was in attendance and did a Q&A with audience after the show. He said that he had forgotten most of the play since it was first published in 2009, but that he still loves it.

“This is one of my favorites,” Downs said. “I think every writer thinks what they are writing right now is brilliant, which is unfortunate. To be a writer you have to lie to yourself a lot. Once a play is published I can’t change it. So I have moved 14 plays beyond. I wrote this play when I was in my 40s. That is how is how it is when you are a playwright. When you come back and watch it now, it is like opening a time capsule.”

Downs thinks that a writer shouldn’t hand-hold their audience.

“You always have to be ahead of your audience,” Downs said. “That is the great thing about theater, for the first few minutes people don’t check out. You can play with your audience for 3 or 4 minutes. You can use exposition to let the audience figure things out.”

He believes the Pioneer Playhouse is a special place.

“No one else has this, celebrate it,” Downs said. “Even on a hot night like tonight, watching a show under the stars with the crickets, is something special. Just celebrate it.”

Nightly showings of “Kosher Lutherans” are Tuesday through Saturday through Aug. 12. Run time is about two hours with a brief intermission.